When it comes to residential real estate, amenities can fall in and out of saliency in a matter of months. By 2023 standards, it’s hard to believe that galley kitchens or intimate parlor rooms might have been popular at one time. Those of us of a certain age can recall an era when full-length mirrors stretched across bedroom closets was a thing, but the homes that still feature these curiosities rarely tout them as a selling point. And do they still even build new split-level ranch homes? Jumping forward a half-century, let’s not get started with the wheeled “barn door” fad, the exposed overhead fire suppression pipes, or the multicolor, rectangular mosaics that have dominated renovation initiatives as recently as the late 2010s but are aging poorly. Amidst all these flash-in-the-pan features, the man cave seems to be hanging in there. It’s been over a decade since I covered the subject, back at a point in time when I was surprised to see it listed as a major feature attached to a “FOR SALE” sign in a front yard. But it’s 2023, and I don’t think the man cave has fallen by the wayside in the least. If anything, this real estate amenity has only grown in popularity.
I can think of no better example of a true masculine grotto than a nook I saw carved into the side of a luxurious property, from the vantage point of a boat in the water.
Unfortunately the reflection on the glass prevents a clear perspective, but there it is, underneath the metal platform with viewing deck, carved into the stone retaining wall, beyond the sliding doors. It’s definitely a man cave, and perhaps the most isolated and exquisite I’ve seen on such a property. But then, this is no surprise on Geist Reservoir, the far northeast corner of Indianapolis—a body of water that splays into the adjacent suburb of Fishers, which I’ve featured before. Constructed in 1943 through the damming of Fall Creek that bisects northern Indianapolis, Geist Reservoir is a major source of drinking water for the metropolitan area. And, starting in the 1970s, it became both a recreational hub and the epicenter of luxury residential development. Within metro Indy, the word “Geist” is synonymous with money. This boat trip skirts the Indianapolis-Fishers boundary on multiple occasions; homes fronting Geist Reservoir in both cities are equally opulent.
These properties range from $3 to $9 million, which is quite pricey by Indianapolis’s standards. The peak decade of new construction along Geist was the 1980s, giving the majority of homes a vernacular characteristic of this time—but overall construction has been slow enough that more contemporary languages aren’t so hard to spy.
Returning to the featured structure with the man cave, the question stands: does it really need to be so isolated? When homes are this big and built along the side of a steep slope, why not just connect it with the rest of the house? At the very least, if the patriarch needed his privacy, he could have partitioned his sanctuary from the rest of the house using a vaguely connected arcade, or a separate stairwell. The possibilities are almost limitless when money is no object. Then again, money was no object here, so the homeowners chose to extend electricity (though my photos fail to capture it) and carve an interior space within this remote site abutting the reservoir’s banks. Or did they?
My original photo was admittedly misleading. But it reflects the disbelief we all shared when we first noticed the elaborate man cave carved into the rock. It was not originally a place for a fella to recline, nurse a bourbon, and watch Predator for the umpteenth time. This converted man cave was a boat garage, and probably a launch. Then, at some later point, the homeowners decided instead to build a dock and slip, leave their boat exposed to the elements, then upgrade the aperture into the man cave that it is today. (No boat garage would feature the glass panes.)
Elsewhere on Geist Reservoir, it’s easy to find examples of what a boat garage typically looks like.
Note that, in the second of these two properties, the waters of Geist Reservoir splash directly against the aperture to the boat garage. But in our man cave conversion, the garage is elevated a few feet. Perhaps a hydraulic lift served as the launch, and it proved too cumbersome or too expensive (yeah right) to justify. Or perhaps water levels changed and the homeowners decided to construct a new solution to circumvent a previous error in judgment? I can only speculate. And I’ll confess I’m only speculating that it’s a man cave. It could be filled with Anne Geddes photography (do people still have those?), or it could be a luxe alternative to the kids’ playhouse, decked instead with Taylor Swift posters. Or a place to entertain guests waiting for a ride on the boat. If the owners really wanted to shell out money and supply it with plumbing as well, it could even become a sort of granny flat—provided that this portion of Indianapolis/Fishers allows Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), which isn’t likely.
What is evident is that it transitioned from a damp, spider-filled garage to a plush lounge with a terrific view of one of the largest man-made lakes in Indiana. In a mostly landlocked state with limited Lake Michigan shoreline, a lakefront vista is all the serenity a high-earning man needs. Because the matriarch controls over 70% of the household expenditures (including most decisions regarding interior decor), the man cave is a small concession. With all that money, they could even add stalagmites.